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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  July 10, 2011 7:00am-8:00am EDT

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government run internship programs like this to counter do something like this, youth labor market problems. i don't know what will come of it. it's a relatively new trend. [inaudible] >> thank you for the speech. very interesting. so, i am from france. i've been a situation to be an intern in the u.s. and in new york, maybe four years ago, for five years ago. so, i know how hard it was. and every month, i know it was very hard. but everyday i was very happy to have the opportunity to be in the u.s. and to learn. so, two years ago i created a website to help french people to
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find internship in new york. we tried to give them internship opportunities, advice, et cetera. but since 2009, 2010 there is a law in france that says if you want to do internship, it has to be three or four months, it has to be paid a minimum three or 400 euros. so i would say, i don't know, 20 e-mails a day from france which i would love to do an unpaid internship but i can't because my school doesn't want because it doesn't pay, so what can i do? so what is your answer to that? >> the school says even though it's outside of france, you should not be doing that? yeah, that's an interesting, an interesting problem that arises when different countries have different legislation.
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i think that, yeah, i mean, another interesting dimension, exactly what your saying of the opportunity that internships in allow people to the country, allow you to go to another country, and you say, i'm new here, i'm not summit with the way things are done but i'm willing to work unpaid so that makes it a lot easier for you to kind of get in and have at least some opportunity. so, that, yeah, that is, you know, that's another species of kind of, you know, the way that internships can, yeah, they can be a foot in the door when there really is nothing else. i guess i would still support the french legislation as it stands. i think having had a time limit as they do were they basically
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say, when it exceeds a certain number of months then it looks a lot more like work, it looks more like work and it should be paid. i think the overall kind of systemic issues don't go away. for a french student to be able to come to in your, living your, you an unpaid internship, they're going to have to have resources behind them, they will have to have family support or saving some of the job. so it really excludes a lot of people. but yeah, there are situations where unpaid internships, especially from an individual perspective, can be the only way. and the kinds of things i am proposing in the book has kind of policy prescriptions. one thing people ask is will this lead to a dramatic decline of internships in a way? i'm curious in france since that law, i haven't heard whether
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internship opportunities have dried up but i've never seen any concrete evidence for that. i do think that the lowest, the lowest level of internships, some of them would go away. some of the lowest quality ones that had often more fly-by-night operations which are just looking for some cheap labor, if they knew that the law, that they would get in trouble with the law they would stop and that. but i think the number of employers would also start paying and valuing their internships more and, this is a controversial question. i think the people to some extent should have the ability to negotiate their own arrangements. and to some extent be able to kind of get into the workforce how they can. but i also think that there's a series real reason to have a
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minimum wage. in most countries seem to agree that's become a standard in develop and undeveloped world to have a minimum wage. once you start allowing people to work for free, a substantial, longer-term ways, more than just a brief kind of three of job shadowing, one choose stop along that it changes the whole shape of the labor market. so i think the basic principle that workers should be paid is something that needs to be protected, otherwise it's going to really distort labor markets. >> you're watching 40 hours of nonfiction authors and books on c-span2 tv. noah webster published the american dictionary of the english language in 1828. up next on booktv, joshua kendall, author of "the
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forgotten founding father," reports on mr. webster's political career, his circle of friends and his tenure as editor of the american. this is a little under an hour. >> it's my pleasure to welcome you here this evening. we are very happy to have is jointly sponsored program by the connecticut historical society and the noah webster house. it's a natural fit with the book for this program, and i'm very pleased to introduce the executive director of the noah webster house to introduce our speaker this evening. >> thank you all for coming out tonight. what a pleasure to have josh kendall with us. and to be able to collaborate with the connecticut historical society. i would also like to thank
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accountable for allowing this collaboration tonight. we generally appreciate their support. josh, i first met while he was researching about noah webster, and then later on he was doing a similar discussion tonight, except on a different language character, roget. a fabulous book. i have just got hold of the noah webster book. i can't wait to go through it after reading the first chapter or so, i can tell you it's one of the more accessible books i've read. usually had to kind of got through with a knife. this one you glide right through. it is a great book is put together and i can't wait to hear him tonight. well, josh kendall was born in new york city. he received his ba from yale where he studied various
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literature. he also did graduate work, at johns hopkins. for his excellence in reporting on psychiatry has received national journalism awards from both the national mental health association, which is now mental health america, and the american psychoanalytic association. he lives in boston where he has ample opportunity to indulge his love for squash. is koran associate fellow of gale's college. idq josh kendall. -- idq josh kendall. [applause] >> thanks so much, chris, mary, it's a pleasure to be here. to be here in the building, to in this building.
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noah webster spoke at the connecticut historical society back in the day and my book has, at the very end has the last speech in a public speech advocate at the connecticut historical society which i researched in this building. so it's really exciting to be here my book is called the forgotten founding father and it really should have an asterisk, because in hartford and west hartford, noah webster is not forgotten and he's not a forgotten founding father. and the point of this book is to tell the rest of the country about just how much noah webster has achieved, particularly in my state, massachusetts. i do a lot of my research at boston matinee and the first thing you see is a big portrait of daniel webster. and that's part of the problem. a lot of americans think that daniel wrote the dictionary,
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particularly in massachusetts. so i want to tell you about webster's incredible shrinking reputation after his death in 1843. when he dies, he is considered a national treasure. one story says he is out there in america's trinity of fame along with columbus in washington. in 1850s, none other than jefferson davis who was then a senator from mississippi says the following, we have a duty of language which no other people possess and we owe this unity above all the noah webster's yankee selling book. now today, noah webster if he's not confuse with daniel, is best known for the dictionary, but in his lifetime he was best known for his speller that comes on 1783. that was the harry potter of its day. that book, america population of
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3 million in 1783, in its first year that book sold 5000 copies. over the next century, that book would sell 100 million copies. and that book got five generations of americans how to read. including jefferson davis. and with his speller and with his dictionary, which came out half a century later, noah webster gave us american english, and that's his singular achievement. so if you think about it, we are the most ethnically diverse nation on the face of the earth, but from maine to hawaii we all speak the same language. that's american english. if you go to old europe, let's say france or italy or spain, every 20 miles people speak a different dialect. but not in america, and that's due to noah webster. the boston has confederate
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spellers. so three years after jefferson davis says this, he becomes the president of the confederacy and the south is them trying to kill the north. but the southerners still want to learn english the noah webster way. and they have confederate spellers so the confederates, they couldn't do without noah webster and they printed spellers, change for the present condition. so the speller was a book for grade school students and had sampled census. and one seconds was the president's term is four years, and that's the sentence that was in the new england version but in the southern version, i looked at one from macon, georgia, and as the president term was six years. so change for the present condition. again, we have this one language. we still have a lot of problems with american unity today in 2011 just like we had in 1861, but webster, this was a singular
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achievement. his reputation starts to dwindle as the speller goes out of print around 1900. here's what the satirist said in 1911. hell, the eternal resting place of the late doctor webster, dictionary maker. that has to do with webster's personality. webster alienate a lot of his friends in his life. he had a friend from yale, named joe barlow, a poet. and webster had a religious conversion and he said he never wanted him after 30 years he told barlow he never wanted to talk to him again all of a sudden. than two years later barlow gets a position in the madison administration and webster ask him for a favor, as if nothing had happened. he could be very crotchety. he also edited historians. it'd only been about six
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biographers of webster and a couple historians of the want to write a biography but they just didn't like him. and i guess the challenge for biographer is to capture the complexity of a person. and i think his achievement is remarkable and his very complicated person with a lot of different parts. that was is very exciting for me as a biographer your and they talk about the daniel webster problem, another reason for joining reputation is daniel webster was an eloquent senator in the middle 19th century, so she calls it the i am not daniel problem. all right, let me give you some key dates of his life. he was born in west hartford, which in 1750 wasn't west hartford yet. it was called west vision. west hartford doesn't become west hartford until after 1800. in the 1770s he has all these
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forest gump moments related to the founding. so in 17 -- he goes to yale and his father, he and his father built on a horse and one of them walks and one of them rides the horse. we don't know who does what. they go to yell, they parkgoers at the president's house and in his freshman year at yuppie is his first forest gump moment. in june 1775, george washington was in town and a write about this in the book, george washington is in new haven on route 15 to 20 will take command of the continental army and webster is part of the of militia that reaching. this is kind of a forest gump moment where you contingently connect to history. i'm getting hooked -- computer virus. a decade later he will start to
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shape history. in 1777 has another force at the moment in the summer of the nation before his senior year at yale. he, his father and two brothers go to the battle of saratoga where he is there for a couple of months. and as most of you know, we did win too many battles during the revolution but that was a critical battle. that was the battle, that was the victory. benedict don't have a famous charge in that was about it at the french on our site. for the rest of his life webster was very proud of having been there. 1783 he writes the speller and i told you that the 19th century harry potter. he also develops the infrastructure for the modern publishing business. he gives a book tour. he goes around from massachusetts to charleston, and
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he also gets a blurb. he gets a blurb from franklin. he tries to get a blurb from washington but washington declined. and the other thing that he does is he is the father of copyright law. so his book is starting to sell and he decides that he's afraid of piracy, so he goes to every single state capital to pass copyright law. and been one of these kind of site achievement for anyone else, a lifetime of achievements but he had so many of them and copyright law is just one of these many achievements. so at the age of 25 ess bestseller. he's very brash and he always think he knows everything and sometimes he really does. and in 1785 he decides what's wrong with america and he was spot on. the problem he says is that under the articles of confederation, the federal
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government didn't have enough power. so he rides his pamphlet called sketches of american policy. and when noah webster has an idea, he takes it to mount vernon and he takes it to george washington. and washington was not a college guy. webster was a yale man. madison was princeton and. john adams was a harvard man. washington was in a college guy. he was very impressed by webster. he said that's a very interesting idea, and he's a great delicate, or says i will give it to mr. madison as soon as possible. he gives it to madison, and webster's pamphlet becomes instrumental in the drafting of the constitution. and then in 1787, webster is at the constitutional convention -- again, these are the forrest gump movements -- in 1787 at the constitutional convention. ss washington arise, the first
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thing he does is knock on webster's door. he's not a delicate. there's a journalist, and then the so-called convention in realize the talents, and right after the convention they asked for the pamphlet in support of constitution. he does that and historians have compare the pamphlet to the federalist papers. and actually it may have been more influential because webster's pamphlet will circulate throughout the entire country. it was published right after the convention as opposed to "the federalist papers" which were circulated mostly in new york. i have a chapter called portrait of the constitutional convention because webster at the constitutional convention meets the woman who would become his wife, rebecca greenleaf. rebecca is from a wealthy boston family. her father was william greely who was the sheriff of suffolk in july 1776.
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and he reads the declaration of independence from the steps of the old statehouse in boston. he and rebecca have stepchildren. and webster's career path, similar to peter roget's career path, and one of the key features of is he marries rich. she is from a very wealthy family. when his daughters are thinking of getting married, he says look for the stock, and he looked for the stock and trade is very classy woman. they were very happily married with seven children. in 1793, webster developed a strong relationship with washington, and 7093 washington has a problem. the jeffersonians are splitting -- there were no clinical parties and tells the 1790s. there's now a political party run by the jeffersonians and their interest with aligning with france and getting involved in another war with england.
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washington wants to stay neutral so he turns to his right hand man, noah webster junior and the appointing the editor of the american minerva. in those days newspapers were party organs. and american minerva is a federalist papers and new york state's first daily newspaper. he works at it for five years from 1793-1798. the "new york post," you can still pick up, starts because webster and alexander hamilton have a fight. hamilton writes, is aligned with webster in the 1790s. they have a fight in about 1800 that leads to a split in the federalist party and he starts his rival newspaper, the "new york post" which is continuously published daily. websters paper and various other names and stops her and 1920.
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1798, webster has money coming in from his speller selling a lot and he decides to retire and he moves back to new haven, and he moves into the arnold house. yes, that's benedict arnold. he gets a good deal because the house is tainted by shame, and it's the classes' house in new haven. it's got fancy columns. benedict arnold was a merchant and he had a huge house on water street in new haven so he could see the ships. and webster moves in. i looked at the deep for that house, and it has all the fancy language including the second outhouse which translates into so many bathrooms today. so he moves into the arnold's house, and then he starts to work on the dictionary. samuel johnson, the great british lexicographer, worked on the dictionary for money. he once said no one but a blockhead ever wrote except for
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money. but webster's career path is the opposite. webster makes his money from the speller, and the speller is the cash cow that allows him to work on the dictionary. the dictionary is what he loves to do more than anything else. and he has this obsessive personality, and for the next 45 years he's going to work on the dictionary. and he's got to take on not only samuel johnson, who published the first edition of this great english dictionary in 1755, buddies got to take on samuel johnson junior. there was one american dictionary written in 1798 by a fellow named samuel johnson junior. no relation, a publicist couldn't come up with a better ending for dictionary maker than johnson junior. is from connecticut. he writes the dictionary. webster has to take on johnson junior. johnson junior dictionary reads like a contemporary thesaurus. one where definitions. so 1806 webster publishes a
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dictionary of english language which is kind of a rough draft and is reap a replacement for johnson junior and then you work for the next 20 years on the big dictionary. the interesting thing is that americans were not interested in the american dictionary. americans love samuel johnson. johnson hated americans and so i'm willing to love all mankind except americans. but americans love samuel johnson and all judges, everyone swore by him. that was the authority and it was little interest. webster want to write the dictionary and he did. and his perseverance i think is truly admirable. this is webster's character, and this is, i think in the challenge of a biographer is really to understand the person.
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and joseph allison said no webster is not the stuff of american mythology. like washington just think about how washington handled that scene with webster delegating brilliantly, just how every decision was so thoughtful. webster isn't that way. to use the vernacular, he kind of pops off. when he becomes 5 50-cent no one under 45 should be allowed to vote. that just doesn't make any sense. that's why it was said he is now joseph stalin. she says, two pages aside about a murderous dictator and his that he is no justice dog but he was an evil man. he was an unlikable man. and i guess the challenge was to understanding. i think he had obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. that's what psychiatry say today, that he loved order,
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rules and lives. that's not the same as ocd. people with ocd have trouble functioning. get someone with ocd, i get a piece for psychology today on this, the difference between personality disorder an actual disorder, they might not be up to leave the house. they are afraid they left the barn are on and they are. but people with ocp d. our function better than well. the way i kind of understood webster is the apostate analogy. with the red sox player named manny ramirez who would kind of pop often do ridiculous things. he once walked into the wall at fenway park in between innings to take a break. and with the boston sportswriter said, that's just me being manny. i think he think that every once in a while like that comment no one being allowed to vote until they're 45, that is just noah being noah. every once in a while he will
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say something ridiculous. he becomes lovable and you can appreciate just to you was. and for him, as opposed to johnson, the dictionary was a dream job. as a right in the psychology today peace, if someone with a personality disorder finds an outlet, they functioned beautifully. but not so well for the family. they are the type of people as a point in my psychology today peace, they're the type of people who don't see a psychiatrist but the drive other family members to see a psychiatrist. [laughter] so they can be difficult, but he found an outlet. and i think the thing about webster is out of his pain came mindedness to american culture. we really need to appreciate that. so he said come pilot extraordinaire and again this is part of the. not only was he a great wordsmith, so he goes on this book tour in 1785 and in each
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city that he goes he does a personal house count. i have the list that osha at the end. philadelphia 4582 houses. he likes round number three called 4600. and that day to get folded into the first census. this is obsessive. now, he also in the 1790s while he is the editor of new york city's first daily newspaper, gets the yellow fever. there was this major health public crisis. philadelphia in 1793, population was literally decimated. 5000 people died in a couple of months. in 1795, when webster is in new york there's another outbreak of yellow fever. he is terrified. but what does he do? he starts to collect data. in his paper he writes the world's first scientific survey. he says the survey out, it's in
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the paper and it's an announcement to physicians in new haven and norfolk across the country, and then he writes what he calls a brief history of epidemic diseases. he finishes that book and art-house. a brief for webster is 700 page. he's an obsessive. and william osler who was a well-known physician and johns hopkins said this is one the best works on medicine by a layman. basically and not during the whole field of public health. again, that's another side achievement which were anyone else would be a licensed time to work. when he goes to new haven, he also starts, wants to collect data about connecticut. and he sent out a survey so he wants to do kind of an inventory of the state. webster begins this project and later becomes involved in the connecticut academy of arts and sciences. and by that time he's onto the
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dictionary but they do sophistical account project, timothy dwight writes 150 page article on new haven, where they talk about exactly what's in new haven. so webster is compiling basically rubbed off on his connecticut colleagues. this project which gives us a wonderful snapshot of dozens of connecticut towns. and webster also, he's america's pedagogue. and at the arnold house he works on a four volume encyclopedia for children. again, another little side project. it covers natural history, geography, and it also includes some of his pet peeves. and so does the dictionary. so we doesn't read like the french. remember, the jeffersonians are close to the french. so he is doing geography and he's talking about france and he talks about the ferociousness of character of french. and so would the dictionary.
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so i told you about no webster marries a woman named rebecca greenleaf. he has a love affair with another rebecca when he is about 20. it doesn't work out. she is married. previously she thought her husband was dead but her husband comes back from the war. and saturday review? 100 just later, because he does keep copious batters and is nothing in his diary about this other rebecca but it took him a whole to carry to express his feeling. so in his compiling is also sticking in parts of his own life. now want to tell you a little bit about how he does the dictionary. i went to management libraries up and down the east coast, and in a small -- the complete draft of the dictionary, there is no one drive.
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the family in the late 19th century started selling off pages. so there are pages at the morgan library, pages ideal and pages all over the place. but in a small museum in new haven, i found the first page, and surprise, surprise the dictionary starts with a. and he dated. so november 31807, he starts the dictionary. and that page actually looks quite similar to the published page 20 years later. he does systematically go through a and b., and i just found -- i make a joke in the book that writing a dictionary by yourself, as webster found outcome always takes longer than expected. first it takes fighting continues and ends up taking more than 20 years. and then he takes a wrong turn. remember i told you that webster always thinks that he knows what's right, in many times he does. and in 1780 he was spot on.
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but here his grandiosity gets him into trouble. in 1808 yes a religious conversion, like many part of the second great awakening, becomes a born-again christian. he becomes convinced that all languages can be traced back to noah's ark, is biblical namesake. and he is wrong. he spends the next 10 years on an etymology. there's 1000 pages buried in the basement of the new public library, and that etymology is gibberish. he was very proud of it. james murray was the editor of the oxford english dictionary has tremendous respect for webster. he was a defined upwards but he says, etymology is word history, and word history as a record of facts. and, unfortunately, webster made a lot of speculations and users, in the book i talk about it in detail, but he makes one speculation to back up another
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speculation. i have a sense, remember i told you about how the dictionary for him kind of therapy. for most of us, writing addiction would probably drive us crazy. for him it may prevent him from going crazy. during and an obsessive you have something to focus on. i of us in the etymology kind worked for him, but as opposed to the diction which is a monument in american culture, the animosity gathers dust. so 1812 he moves to amherst. there's the war of 1812, the economy is sinking and webster is making money from the speller, but he wants to cut is expensive because the dictionary is taking longer. so in his correspondence in 1817 he says he is back to see. that's i come up with those letters. in 1821 he is on the h. now about his method. the new public library has the dictionary that he worked on.
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has his 1799 copy of samuel johnson's dictionary. you can see his annotation. samuel johnson loved shakespeare and his consulate quoting shakespeare to illustrate the meaning of words. webster puts little black marks next to shakespeare. the reason for that is that when webster was a college student at yale, drama was considered to steps away from sex. and students were penalized for attending a play or performing a play, and webster really hates shakespeare, and he rarely quote shakespeare but in his 1820 dictionary, he blames shakespeare for the dirty words. so there's a word like and webster was just right shaq as
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if shakespeare invented. but anyway, the 1799, there are about one-third of the decisions he takes from but then he's adding a tremendous amount of new material. webster was -- he read very widely. one thing that's is interesting is enlightenment, the science, physics, chemistry and biology are all exploding at the end of the 18th century. and webster reads everything and that's all these new scientific terms. so his 1820 dictionary has 70,000 words as opposed to the 88,000 of the latest addition of johnson, johnson's dictionary had 43,000. and then he also uses robert ainsworth, who wrote a latin interush dictionary, and at the morgan library eyesight and i can show you a page. cities using those as his base and then he is adding a stun his
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own reading lots of new words. and also doing definitions, and about a third is doing closely on johnson but did he is redoing a lot of the words in johnson. albay, and here's another side achievement which would be for anyone else a major achievement, helps to found amherst college. remember, webster is always fulminating, so today he might make a good kind of policy person on a cable tv news show, talking about the evils of the administration. and in 1820, he basically wants to establish a yale in massachusetts because he is a congregationalist and there's a religious war innuendo between the congregationalists and the trinitarian's in boston. so he says that college is needed, and i love this phrase, to check the progress of errors, that there can be progress in areas which are promulgated in
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cambridge. so he doesn't like harvard. he writes a letter and becomes the present of the board of trustees. the original plan is to steal williams college. williams college is having a lot of financial problems. they had $3000 coming from the endowment and $4000 of expenses. so they're in trouble, and williams protect itself. what ways does is it ends up, it sounds the first alumni association so it can send off webster and people at amherst. but they end up stealing the williams president and about a quarter of the students. and webster presides over the induction of the president in 1821. he is very proud of his achievement. this is a phrase from his memoir, and is written in third person, and that's not common with webster. think of the education of henry adams, classic 19th century memoir.
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he think it's about somebody else but it's henry adams who writes it. this is how webster writes about himself. the principal event which took place while in w. come he never liked his first game, trammell but he did what any of the children or grandchildren to be called in one. presided in amherst with establishment of a college of that town. all right, here's his later life. webster is a very canny businessman. remember the book tour and as tabs and the infrastructure publishing business, and no one is interested in american dictionary. so he wants to go to your. emus back to new haven in about 1823. he wants to go to europe for some research. and he also has a new idea. is always thinking, having these marketing brainstorms. and his new brainstorm is to write a universal dictionary which would be valid in both america and england to market and in both places.
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and he wants to set up a conference between oxford, cambridge and him to decide what universal english is going to be. but oxford and cambridge are not buying. so if they had, today we might spell color without a you on both sides of the pond. but they are not buying. and he goes back, then he goes back to his original plan which was right the american dictionary. and that comes out in 1828. webster has one assistant on the dictionary, a fellow named james gave percival. i'm finding a lot of these are very eccentric. james gates percival was much more eccentric than webster. he was a yell student who was a medical student, never practiced. he once touched a woman when he was an adolescent and he ran out of the house he was so scared. he was tutoring her, but
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percival understands that a monkey and he tries to correct his boss. he realizes that webster doesn't know, and he writes a letter to a friend, many absurd things i have removed, because he understand the etymology is wrong. the merriam-webster company would figure that out 20 years later. but, of course, webster and he don't get along and basically he lays before the dictionary is published. the dictionary if of a one man operation. the reviews are fantastic, but webster really makes his money on the unabridged dictionary. that sells very well just like today, the really fat webster's doesn't sell. it's the collegiate dictionary which sells at least until the digital age. but to the horror of his family, webster getting obsessive and he can't deal without compiling so he wants to do another addition to and to the horror of his family, at the age of 80, he
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mortgages his house to publish a second edition and he keeps going. and he keeps working on definitions until the day he died. he is still working, so the 1844 addition, he includes words -- webster, this is what he did better than anyone else, he keeps track of the american language. and in 1884, the last one hit input and was published in 1844 in his including words like inner dynamics, agronomy, and harvard library had emily dixon's copy of the 1844 addition. emily dickinson, just to show the influence, emily dickinson refers to it as her sole companion. and that may because you as much about dickinson as about the dictionary, but she referred to the dictionary constantly inviting her poetry. and i examined the dictionary
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and it is a green marble edge here are the four edge is all worn out. you have a sense in the dickinson kind of lived in that dictionary. and then i want to talk about what happened to the dictionary after webster's death. so he dies in 1843, and in 1847 the merriam-webster company takes over. they start printing small revisions, and had a piece of the nation that came out about a month ago about this major revision in 1864. that's going to be the first modern american english dictionary that you recognize. webster's dictionary is going to have a lot of personal things that as i told you, so he defines marriage as a covenant between man and woman and god. webster was a described. there's an age-old debate in lexicography about whether lexicographers could describe delay which were prescribed a
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language. this came to a head in 1961 when the editors of merriam-webster included the word ain't in the dictionary. there was a 25 page rebuttal in "the new yorker." they were horrified. "the new yorker" also had a cartoon of the secretary and merriam webster picking up the phone and saying the editor ain't in. [laughter] but 10 years later the furor died down and today, description is considered the norm. and webster himself says this in the 17 '80s quoting cicerone, that the norm of language is usage. and sarah palin uses refute each enough, someone like webster might be squeamish when he uses the first 10 times, but it is used for a few years you got to stick in the dictionary. webster would describe language but prescribe how to live. some of his religious beliefs are in the dictionaries come and merriam-webster company would
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take out these personal preferences, as i said, james orr have tremendous respect for webster called born to find. they also took out, had this crisis, they realize the etymology was way off base. they were worried that the dictionary would lose its market share if they didn't fix the etymology. they hire a guy from germany and they take the animosities out. 1.0 to leave you with is that this dictionary, 1864 dictionary, was the best dictionary of the 19th century. webster's dictionary was valid in both england and america. the british courts would side webster's, and new haven was really the world capital of the english lexicography from 1798 when webster moves into the arnold house, until 1864. and to make that case i talk about the obscure fellow, minor.
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those of you have read the professor and the madman, may note through he is. w.c. minor was much more trouble than webster. he killed some. he was another yale medical student. he was in the civil war as a doctor and probably had post-traumatic stress disorder and killed someone and was locked in an insane asylum. in britain. and from that insane asylum he gave james murray tens of thousands of illustrative quotations for the oxford english dictionary. the brits consider him a star of the oed. that star of the oed is actually an american reject because simon winchester in his book, and winchester's is a breed. the brits have written history about that and my point is the americans were damn good in the
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19th century and we shouldn't forget it. that winchester didn't realize that w.c. minor worked on webster's 1864 addition again i look at the correspondents, and he was the one weak link. ever says this is a fantastic dictionary. minor was supposed to do a natural history definition and they were really lousy. so the future star of the oed couldn't cut it as an american lexicographer, and i just want to highlight just how impressive that dictionary is and that we should be very proud of our tradition of the american lexicography. all right, i will stop there and take questions. [inaudible] >> all right. when we you appear on c-span? >> i'm not sure when it's going to air.
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[inaudible] >> will that be on the q&a program? >> i think it's going to be telecast on the lecture. >> i know people in those days knew a lot more languages than we know now. how many languages did not webster converse with? >> that's a very good question, and webster again, he claimed that he knew 26 languages. but he also claimed that he wrote a brilliant anthropology. and i tried to figure out how many were for real and how many were for show. and i think he knew about six very well. and he had, he had kind of a quick knowledge of the other 20 but it really, but it's been
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said he knew 26 light which is and i think that's a little bit, that's a little bit pr. but he had basic, and maybe transliterate or do some basic terms in 26 languages. i do want to give him credit for that but he didn't know all 26 languages backwards and forwards as some people have claimed. >> he use that knowledge i assume he was trying to trace etymology back? >> exactly, exactly. yes, behind you. >> did he take the ou ours because he didn't like the french or was there a reason he was trying to -- the british english? why that particular aggressive part of that? >> i think the u he takes out any goes back and forth on the u and it comes out like a speller
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still has it, but i think that is sufficiency and simplicity. and the r may have something to do with the french. but i think he wanted to give america a distinct flavor. i think that was it. >> i think he said he used about a third? >> right. >> did he reject him because he thought they were an accurate or out of date? >> in the book i give some specific examples, but webster was much more, had a much better analytic mind then jobs. i think that he was an excess of any like to get things exactly right. i think johnson, and they give examples in the book was they come sometimes and webster would really think it's a bit i think that's really his chief contribution is just the precision of the definitions.
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and another contribution is that, remember johnson is using shakespeare, but what webster does in 1826 dictionary, quoting johnson is its office. he puts in quotations from washington, madison, although we do have a grape flavor of shakespeare. we do have great constitutional theorists, and by quoting americans and puts american literature on the world stage. and he shows that our writers and stack up against the other writers from anywhere. that's a big part of the contribution of after the 1820 dictionary appears, american culture really has arrived. >> you have a note in there about the global warming. you didn't touch upon that site. >> webster loved, and this is a passion that he shared with thomas jefferson, that is part of the obsession can he counts
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houses. he also loves to take the temperature and he loves to crunch the numbers you can jettison it, jefferson starts taking the temperature in july 1776. he is writing the declaration and he buys a thermometer and starts taking the temperature indicates a temperature log for 50 years. he writes, and they have a disagreement about global warming. obviously there are no cars and buttons up issue is deforestation in states like vermont. jefferson said it had a huge impact. webster said he didn't. webster's essay has been hailed by people in the field as a major contribution of the weather patterns in the late 18th century. again, what's amazing is this compulsive energy, except for etymology, usually leads to very impressive results but even though the public health treatise wasn't signed by today's standards, it was still a very important contribution,
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given the constraints of the day. it was a remarkable piece of work. [inaudible] the handwriting how did he collaborate with anybody? >> everything, i think, i mean, he did write everything. i think for the later editions he may have had -- again, it's hard to see exactly because there is no dictionary from a-z. pages are scattered pakistan certainly as he was going along most of it was in his own hand, at least for the first dictionary. but i think for the second dictionary when his over aei think other people, he uses described or other people help them with the writing. >> you suggested that his obsessions and compulsions might have been hard on his family. was there any particular evidence of that?
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>> yes, he had a son, he had one son and six daughters. and his son never come his son was very bright and he studied classics at el but he never graduated. his letters are kind of sad. he was depressed. and he worked on the dictionary but because he didn't have a college degree he could never become if full long after. and i have since been noah webster's son was very difficult. his wife was, his wife kept an orderly house. a perfect fit for him, and she didn't complain but he had a sense that she was doing everything that she wanted, and it must've taken a toll on her, even if she doesn't talk about it explicitly in the letters. there's a sense he was very demanding but there's also letters that i quote in the book between webster and his daughters, and webster is on a trip and rather than -- get a hard time connecting with other
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people even though he had a large family, and he was a loving person. words were always his best friend. he writes a letter to his daughters about a trip he is taking and he tries to give them like a geography lesson, and he has a hard time just relaxing and being himself with other people. everything has to have a purpose, you have a sense of the doctors felt a little uncomfortable around him at times. >> we know that noah webster changed the spelling of a number of words like labor or color, et cetera. to a lot of other words he changed the spelling of which never were accepted. and i would appreciate your commenting on why they were not accepted by what forces they vented them being accepted. >> webster had a lot of different spelling ideas in the book. he and franklin want to change
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the alphabet at one point. he writes a book in 1790 what he wants to get rid of e. in 1820 dictionary he wants to spell women w-i-m-e-n. johnson is the authority. and webster says people, the way i'm going to replace johnson is to prove the i in the authority and i can go back to anglo-saxon and that he loved, he said w-i-m-e-n is closer to anglo-saxon. i had an anglo-saxon scholar look at the book at the webster did know that much anglo-saxon himself. again, that wasn't his strong definition and comprehensive of the dictionary. but throughout his life he endorse a lot of eccentric spellings. they are in the. some of them are in the as alternative spellings in 1828,
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but by the time merriam-webster gets a hold of the dictionary they will normalize everything to spell it as it is recognized today. >> you mentioned noah webster was ocd you don't think it was asperger? i'm just curious? >> asperger, psychology talk about comorbidity and those are very similar. people with asperger's come and i just have to different ways of looking at it. and you could make, again, i never met him in the flesh and diagnosis is always an interpretation, and i think my interpretation is one reason the one. i think asperger's would be another one that also capture. 120 captures trying to capture a very complicated person. what motivates them. and i think looking at obsessions and compulsions, you know, is one way of slicing it. the problem i have with asperger's is obsessive-compulsive disorder
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and it tells you about which probably going on inside that person's head so i find it more colorful diagnoses come is no asperger's may well be as accurate. >> next year will be bicentennial of the beginning of the war of 1812. was webster a typical new englander in the sense he was opposed to madison for? >> exactly. >> does he have any forrest gump mom and? >> i left this out because i'm talking about in massachusetts, this is my connecticut talk, in massachusetts i have a scene, webster is in amherst, and mr. madison's war, and they hate mr. madison and eight the virginians. night have madison. -- now you have madison. webster is a delegate from amherst and he gives a speech in 1814 in which he advocates the necessity for a new constitutional convention and it's called the hartford
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convention that takes place in december 1814. remember, webster is very contradictory but in the 1780s he's all about unity. but in 1814 he's not a delegate to the hartford convention because you have to be born in the state he represented he is born in connecticut and is living in amherst. but the hartford convention, when the issues that they take up literally is secession from the union. they are so angry. webster says the urgencies are the same as they were in 1785. and the hartford convention fizzles out because then the war of 1812 and with the battle of new orleans. and there's really no need for secession. the south later takes up the ideas of the hartford conventi convention. but to the day he died webster was a firm believer in hartford convention. that just gives you a sense of his mercurial nature and how -- benjamin franklin once said i have been all my life change my opinion. i think tha


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